Guatemala is home to one of the largest tracts of undisturbed rainforest in Central America and has a particularly impressive avifauna. On this holiday we go in search of its birds, splendid Mayan ruins and stunning volcanoes, staying at comfortable country houses known as ‘fincas’. We begin our holiday with a visit to colonial La Antigua, before heading to our first finca, from where we will explore humid broad-leafed and dry forests along quiet trails. We’ll look for woodpeckers, Shrike-vireos, orioles and warblers, as well as regional endemics, among a host of other birdlife. Next we we will be based for four nights near the Atitlán Important Bird Area. Moving on to Finca El Zapote, we’ll look for egrets, herons, swallows, orioles, woodpeckers, flycatchers, warblers; and we’ll enjoy the finca’s luxuriant gardens which are rich with birdlife. Next we visit the magnificent Mayan ruins of Tikal. Not only are the ruins themselves world-class, but Ocellated Turkeys, Pheasant Cuckoo and a host of other Neotropical birds (and mammals) wander freely around the site. Finally we will visit Laguna Petexbatún and then, after a night in Guatemala City, we conclude our holiday with a short visit to the pine-oak forests of Cerro Alux.
- Stay at comfortable ‘fincas’ in shade-grown coffee plantations
- Look for Bushy-crested Jay, Pink-headed Warbler & Rose-throated Becard
- Baltimore Oriole, plus Tennessee, Black-throated Green & Townsend’s Warblers
- Rufous Sabrewing & Green-throated Mountain-gem possible on hummingbird feeders
- Option walk to look for Horned Guans, San Pedro Volcano
- Highland Guan, Resplendent Quetzal & Tody Motmot, Los Andes Reserve
- Visit the magnificent Mayan ruins of Tikal & enjoy an array of exciting Neotropical birds
- Guatemalan Howler Monkey, Central American Spider Monkey & White-nosed Coati, Tikal
- Blue-throated Motmot & Black-capped Siskin, Cerro Alux
- Led by expert naturalist/birding guide
All included in the price.
Comfortable lodges and country house hotels, the majority with private facilities.
Day 1 Fly Guatemala City; transfer Antigua.
Day 2 Finca El Pilar, Antigua.
Day 3/6 Daily excursions from Los Tarrales, Atitlán.
Day 7/8 Finca El Zapote, Escuintla.
Day 12/13 El Sombrero, Laguna Yaxha.
Day 15 Cerro Alux. Depart Guatemala City.
The small Central American country of Guatemala nestles between Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador and is blessed with magnificent scenery, wildlife and culture — a place in which breathtaking Maya ruins rise from pristine rainforests inhabited by myriad colourful birds. Although the Spanish arrived in the 1500s and displaced the indigenous Maya people, this land still feels like their place ... the place of the Maya. Their influence is still found everywhere: in the world-famous remains of Maya cities and religious sites of which Tikal is the most magnificent; in the faces of the people; in the numerous languages and dialects that have evolved from their common ancestral tongue; and in the delicious cuisine, much of which is still based on ancient recipes. Guatemala is also home to one of the largest tracts of undisturbed rainforest in Central America and even the most well-travelled naturalist cannot fail to be impressed by its wealth of wildlife and, in particular, its avifauna.
A special feature of this new holiday will be our stays at comfortable country houses (known as fincas) in shade-grown coffee plantations. Such houses, with well-maintained trails, welcoming staff, lush native forest, and colourful and active bird feeding stations, provide ideal accommodation. Waking up each morning to a mug of freshly brewed coffee from the farm, and to busy feeding flocks of birds in the trees and at the feeders in the grounds, set against an atmospheric backdrop of distant volcanoes, is sure to start each day off on the right foot!
We begin our tour in colonial La Antigua, its cobbled streets and bustling plazas lined with colourfully dressed vendors and intricate textiles and ceramics. Nearby is our base, Finca El Pilar, from which we will explore both humid broad-leafed and dry forests on quiet trails. Bushy-crested Jays and Pink-headed Warblers can often be seen here, along with Rose-throated Becard, Hairy Woodpecker, Chesnut-sided Shrike-vireo and Bar-winged Oriole. During the northern winter, Baltimore Oriole as well as Tennessee, Black-throated Green and Townsend’s Warblers are common, while such regional endemics as Rufous Sabrewing and Green-throated Mountaingem are possible on the hummingbird feeders.
Next we will drive east to Los Tarrales Reserve, on the slopes of Atitlán Volcano. Here, a 4-night stay at a quiet lodge endowed with old-world charm allows us to explore a range of altitudinal zones and habitats within the Atitlán Important Bird Area. Amongst these are Atitlán Lake, once home to the extinct Atitlán Grebe, and the 9,000-foot cone of San Pedro Volcano that rises from the shores of the lake and which you may choose to walk up (to be rewarded with Horned Guans at the top!). We will also visit the beautiful Los Andes Reserve where we will search for such globally-threatened and regional endemic birds as Highland Guan, Palebilled Woodpecker, Azure-rumped Tanager, Resplendent Quetzal, Tody Motmot and Black-crested Coquette.
Further south, we will spend two nights at Finca El Zapote, a glorious country house from which views of Volcán de Fuego provide a magnificent backdrop. This is one of the three active volcanoes in Guatemala, and it has small eruptions almost constantly! Luxuriant botanical gardens, where many orchid species grow, surround the house and lakes; these habitats attract a multitude of egrets, herons, swallows, orioles, woodpeckers, flycatchers, warblers and other birdlife. Next we will visit Guatemala’s ‘jewel in the crown’ — the magnificent Maya ruins of Tikal. From around 200 to 900AD, Tikal dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically and militarily. Today, it is the best understood of the lowland Maya cities; its rulers and their dynasties, and many of their tombs, monuments, temples and palaces have been well studied by archaeologists. The scale and majesty of Tikal lingers long in the memory of the modern visitor, especially those able to appreciate the rich birdlife of this site as well as its cultural appeal. Here, Ocellated Turkeys wander on deserted trails at dawn, and such soughtafter birds as Pheasant Cuckoo and a plethora of other exciting Neotropical birds — flycatchers, hummingbirds, euphonias, puffbirds and honeycreepers to name a few — may be seen. Mammals such as Guatemalan Howler Monkey, Central American Spider Monkey and White-nosed Coati may also be encountered.
Finally we will explore the clear azure waters of Laguna Yaxha and then, after a night in Guatemala City, we conclude our holiday with a short visit to the pine-oak forests of Cerro Alux, where we’ll look for birds such as Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Rufous-collared Robin, Rufous-browed Wren, Blue-throated Motmot and Black-capped Siskin — species which provide a fitting finale to our holiday of colourful avifauna, mystical ruins and stunning volcanoes!